Creating Quick Fun
September 1, 2013
Trends in Go-kart Racing
Go-karts have become a key sales- and traffic-driver at many family entertainment centers, but for some, simply touting a go-kart attraction isn’t enough. Some players are upping the ante in the race to profitability, catering to guests’ need for speed with go-kart racing, and implementing strategies to ensure success.
Suburban Oaks, Pa., located 18 miles northwest of Philadelphia, is home to several public attractions, including Lower Perkiomen Valley Park, the Schuylkill River Trail, the Perkiomen Trail, the West Collection of artwork at the headquarters of SEI Corporation and the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center. But when residents and visitors want to engage in go-kart racing, they head to Arnold’s Family Fun Center, which has more than 150,000 square feet of space and welcomes several hundred thousand guests annually.
“We were the first facility in our area to introduce go-karts and go-kart racing,” said Lorin Richter, sales manager.
Offering league racing has proven to be the most viable strategy for cultivating and fostering the go-kart racing end of the business, Richter observed. Several go-kart racing leagues, comprised primarily of men ages 20 to 45, now use the facility. The availability of go-kart racing at Arnold’s not only helps to attract visitors who might otherwise not frequent a family entertainment center; it also boosts the visitor count on weekday evenings, when few families are present, Richter said.
She added that promoting go-kart racing as an activity for corporate events bodes equally well for Arnold’s. So, too, do special deals, like two races for $30 instead of one for $18; augmenting the excitement by posting contestants’ racing times on a digital bulletin board in plain sight of racers and spectators alike; and including “winning” tips, such as driving straight along the track rather than veering to the left or right, in a safety video participants must view before getting behind the wheel.
“The board, the deals and the tips really are a big part of things,” Richter asserted, noting that younger visitors and families do gravitate towards Arnold’s kiddie and double-seat family go-karts. The former are more popular, she reported, because children like the idea of “driving” themselves.
Go-karting leagues have also been the ticket to go-kart racing success for The Hub Family Entertainment Center in Missoula, Mont. Nicknamed the “Garden City” for its forested, lush surroundings and plentiful fresh water and acknowledged by many as Montana’s most liberal town, Missoula is promoted by its convention and visitors bureau as being “at the head of Montana cities in culture, community and bringing in national events to local venues.” It boasts an abundance of city parks, outdoor activity venues and local breweries.
To appeal to the broadest possible swath of go-karting aficionados, the 60,000-square-foot, one-year-old center operates two Hub Cap go-karting leagues, one for adults and the other, for kids, explained Owner Heidi Feeney. The adult Hub Cap league runs for eight weeks and costs $200. Participants, the majority of whom are men ages 19 to mid-40s, race in teams of four; first-, second- and third-place teams win cash prizes. Youngsters aged eight to 12 are eligible for the junior Hub Cap league, which costs $115 per six-week session. Each league races once weekly.
Feeney, who likened offering an adult league to promote go-kart racing without doing the same for youngsters to “serving a burger without cheese,” concurred with Richter that offering special go-kart racing deals plays a role in keeping the activity profitable. Every Monday through Thursday, guests who are at least 58 inches tall can take advantage of a “buy two, get one free” package wherein $28 covers three 14-lap races for a single driver; a package of three such races normally sells for $34. On those same days, racers who stand a minimum of 48 inches tall are eligible for a “buy two, get one free” deal that offers three eight-lap races at $16, versus the regular price of $19.
Moreover, go-kart racing is included in The Hub’s corporate event packages. It is especially popular among organizers of team-building activities, Feeney stated.
Amanda Lahn, who manages marketing and event sales at The Funplex in East Hanover and Mount Laurel, N.J., agreed with Feeney that promoting go-kart racing as a team-building activity for corporate events has a positive effect on profits. The two family entertainment centers span a respective 100,000 square feet and 22 acres. East Hanover lies 25 miles west of New York City, N.Y. and was described in The New York Times’ “Living in…” real estate profile column as “the land of light taxes and heavy shopping.” State Route 10, along which The Funplex is situated, boasts such big-box retail tenants as Costco, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Home Depot, Party City and Bed Bath and Beyond. Mount Laurel in New Jersey’s Burlington County, is considered an “edge suburb” of Philadelphia; other family attractions situated there include the CoCo Key Water Resort, an indoor waterpark.
“We make the go-kart racing flexible, appealing and different for team building by allowing team and individual racing and handing out trophies at the end,” Lahn stated. “Some groups even have themes for their races, and we will help with that.”
As is true of Arnold’s, The Funplex offers non-group go-kart racing during off-hours, so as to maximize usage of the go-kart tracks without cannibalizing the traditional go-karting business. “We call it ‘Speed Racer Tracking’, and it’s at night during the slower times of the year, usually winter,” Lahn explained, adding that single-rider kiddie go-karts far outweigh family go-karts because the latter are attractive only to the “very youngest” riders.
Fredericksburg, Va., 49 miles south of Washington, D.C., played a key role in the Civil War, gaining importance due to its location midway between Washington and Richmond, the opposing capitals of the Union and the Confederacy. It was the site of the Battle of Fredericksburg in mid-December of 1862 and the Second Battle of Fredericksburg on May 3, 1863. The battles of the Wilderness and Spotsylvania Court House were fought nearby in May 1864.
As is true of The Hub, Central Park Fun Land, an indoor/outdoor family fun center with 40,000 square feet of interior space, a span of seven acres and a guest count that exceeds 100,000 per year, also fares well with go-kart racing because both kids and adults (beginner and otherwise) have an option to race, said Tony Tallarico, general manager. Its featured go-kart track, the Grand Prix, features twists, turns, an underpass and an overpass and accommodates licensed drivers who are at least 60 inches tall (passengers must be 36 inches tall). Advanced can compete in five-minute races, with up to 12 drivers per race, using their choice of single and double open-body karts. Fun Land’s Naskart track offers traditional racing on an oval track, for beginners who are at least 58 inches tall and in single and double open-body karts. Races last for five minutes, and up to eight drivers can compete simultaneously. Also operated on the Naskart track are rookie go-karts.
“Go-karts are our anchor, so this racing setup is the best for us,” Tallarico noted.
Tallarico believes that including the price of go-kart racing in admission passes, rather than limiting the number of races in which guests can compete or making go-karting an add-on attraction with a separate fee, pumps up profits as well. –